Angela Carmean is due any day. And while the Marine Corps spouse looks perfectly stylish with a burgeoning belly and glowing skin, her pregnancy isn’t entirely stress free. Her Marine aviator spouse is preparing for deployment and doesn’t expect to be home for the birth. “I’ve got several friends who have all agreed to be my birthing coach,” says Carmean, of Yuma.
November is Military Family Appreciation Month, and it marks more than 11 years that our Marines, soldiers and airmen have been at war. For families like the Carmeans, deployments to the tune of six, seven and even nine months are the norm.
And while the U.S. Department of Defense has instituted a whole host of programs to support military families with subsidized child care, education and careers, military spouses often have to hit up friends for support during deployments—especially when there are no family members nearby.
When Marine spouse Angie Barber of Yuma had to have major surgery, her husband Brad couldn’t come home from Afghanistan. Instead, Barber’s friend Melissa Pullen stayed with her at the hospital and organized meals. And while recovering from surgery was painful, Barber said, “The hardest part was asking for help.”
Service members spend scads of time away from home training and deploying, so chances are your “milspouse” friend needs backup, an invitation to Sunday dinner or help with yard work. Here’s a girlfriend’s guide to being a milspouse pal.
2) Attend a Veterans Day event in your neighborhood. Sunday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day; many towns host events that honor the men and women who serve in the armed forces. One notable parade is the Phoenix VA Veterans Day Parade being held on Nov. 12.
3) Donate books to military-impacted libraries. Sequestration is the official term for sweeping cuts written into law in 2011 and scheduled to take effect in 2013. Community services like libraries are often the first on the chopping block, so consider going through your bookshelf and contributing already-loved books to the libraries at Luke Air Force Base or Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma.
4) Volunteer your service in honor of a military family through Operation Honor Cards. Families, companies and even Girl Scout groups can pledge community service hours. Examples include sprucing up a neighborhood park, making cards for seniors at retirement homes or mentoring kids. It’s easy to sign up, find local opportunities and track hours. Honor cards are displayed in the Capitol Rotunda and military installations across the country.
5) The unemployment rate for military spouses hovers around 26 percent. If you own a business and employ a military spouse, consider a telecommuting position if he or she get orders elsewhere.
6) Don’t let a milspouse mope! Having a military spouse for a friend means propping her up every once in a while with a hug or a girl’s night out. Be sure to remind her that not everyone is lucky enough to love a man in uniform and she should wear that badge with honor.